This week certainly wasn't dull in the world of Nintendo. To the surprise of everyone, Nintendo announced the 2DS, a member of the 3DS family that abandons the clamshell design and, yes, the 3D effect. The initial reaction was generally of bemusement, yet Nintendo's target audience of young children and uncertain 3DS-adopters is arguably perfectly suited to the device. The other big news, aside from release dates and an attractive hardware bundle for The Wind Waker HD, was a formal price cut for the Wii U. Long expected but frequently denied, the $50 price cut in North America will also have its equivalent in Europe, and the issue to consider is the scale of the impact the new price point will or will not have on Wii U sales.
We've provided some reaction and coverage already, but that won't stop us from having a debate in serious, or occasionally ridiculous, terms. Joining features editor Tom Whitehead for a chat about the peculiar week that was are news editor Andy Green, purexbox.com editor-in-chief Ken Barnes, and Nintendo Life contributors Ron DelVillano, Stephen Kelly, Morgan Sleeper, Gaz Plant, Marcel van Duyn.
Tom Whitehead: Let's get this show started. Please introduce yourselves to our lovely readers.
Stephen Kelly: Hello, I'm an American named Stephen. I am friend to Waluigi and I write reviews.
Ken Barnes: Hi there, I'm Ken and I'm the Editor-in-Chief of PureXbox.com.
Andy Green: I'm Andy, I'm News Editor and I've just dragged myself away from Animal Crossing!
Morgan Sleeper: Hey everybody, I'm Morgan! I write reviews and I may or may not be playing Animal Crossing one-handed as we type.
Gaz Plant: 'Hoy Small Fry! I'm Gaz, contributor for Nintendo Life. I should be playing Rayman Legends right now, but thanks to the good people at Royal Mail, have another delay on the game...
Marcel van Duyn: Hey, I'm Marcel, I'm a reviewer and one might say I'm pretty good at DuckTales.
Tom Whitehead: I'm Tom, features editor and the poor soul that edits these round tables.
Ron DelVillano: I'm Ron. US reviewer without a witty comment.
Tom: Excellent! So, let's all start with one sentence or phrase that summarises our initial reactions to the 2DS.
Marcel: "Uhhh... what?"
Ken: "Cheap, nasty, pointless."
Ron: Fevered nightmare.
Gaz: Happy April Fools Da... Huh, it's August.
Stephen: "Even Nintendo is making fun of Nintendo now? How silly this world is!"
Morgan: "Hmm, guess I'll be having kids some day!"
Andy: I personally think it's a great idea! Though I won't be trading my 3DS XL for one...
Tom: "Nah, can't be real".
Ron: I'm actually with Andy on this one, but my initial reaction was a mix of laughing and frowning.
Andy: Phew, thought I'd be on my own for a second there…
Gaz: Wait, Morgan, your first reaction when seeing the 2DS was "better have some children"?
Morgan: I think I'm enough of a gadget head that yes, it was. "I want to buy those for someone!"
But I'm also with Andy & Ron, I think it's a great idea. Perfect for kids, and really, anyone who wants a less expensive 3DS.
Tom: I think it'll have a market, but it was always going to be slammed by a lot of people. Do you all think Nintendo was right to pretty much drop it on us in the way it did?
Stephen: It was a shocker, but I've seen a lot of people bounce back. The concept — and the name in particular — is ridiculous, but it makes some kind of sense when you think about the market, right?
Gaz: I find it a little strange that Animal Crossing Plaza warranted a Nintendo Direct going out with basically no new information, but a new handheld revision, which let's face it, does need a bit of explaining, gets a shuffled out press release.
Marcel: I think they should've announced it during a Nintendo Direct and spent some time explaining it, it seemed a bit weird to just throw it out there like this with nothing but a 50 second video.
Andy: I don't think there was a need for a Nintendo Direct as the typical audience it's aimed at wouldn't have been watching, but it may have helped in terms of explaining it as Marcel's just said.
Tom: I think Nintendo would have been slaughtered if they'd revealed it in a Nintendo Direct. ND's hype people, and it would have been a huge come-down.
Morgan: I think it's because — as much as it might appeal to some of us — this wasn't really an announcement for the people who watch Nintendo Directs as soon as they pop up.
Ken: Yeah, if they had detailed it in a Nintendo Direct, they'd have been slammed.
Stephen: And as far as Nintendo is concerned, the majority of people talking about Nintendo Directs on Twitter and such aren't the target consumers.
Though to be fair, it was a pretty exciting announcement for me, and I would've been happy to watch a Direct on it!
Ron: I think the sudden information drop was strange, but this isn't a new console with new features. It's actually just the same old console with fewer features, so it's not that surprising to me that Nintendo didn't feel the need to explain everything away.
Gaz: I think a 3DS that plays 3DS games in 2D needed some sort of explanation, or at least a rationale behind it. Just imagine the crazy shenanigans Iwata could have got up to when revealing it!
Morgan: Gaz, now I've got an image of Iwata in my head. "These three bananas represent the NIntendo 3DS. These two bananas represent the newly released Nintendo 2DS. Please understand."
Ken: It felt as if they were ashamed of the new machine. As if their goal is simply to get it to market without there being any big build-up to launch. They want to rely on salesmen in stores to shift it to less clued-up parents, it feels like.
Gaz: Like the Wii Mini?
Stephen: Very much like the Wii mini. Great comparison.
Ken: Because after all, the people who would read up about it clearly aren't the target audience.
Marcel: Well, I'm not saying they should've dedicated a whole Direct to it, but maybe they should've waited to include it in a bigger one together with some new trailers for stuff; surely we're getting one soon with new holiday game trailers, right?
Tom: Some media commentary has suggested that the 2DS is a climb-down and sign of failure for the autostereoscopic 3D feature. What do you all think about that perspective?
I think that argument is off, in general. Or to put it another way, it’s poppycock.
Ken: Absolute poppycock. They're giving people a choice. A choice that they think the people want.
Stephen: It's a sign that Nintendo thinks the 3DS component is unnecessary. Does that mean it's a failure? No. If the 3DS wasn't doing so well, this whole thing might have me slightly worried. But as it stands, I think everything's cool.
Marcel: Based on what Nintendo said it seemed like the 2DS is aimed at kids under 7 who shouldn't be seeing stereostopic 3D and absolutely nothing else, so I don't think it's really any indication that the 3D is a failure.
Morgan: I agree with Tom. I like the 3D & I certainly think we'll keep seeing 3DS games in 3D — I think the rationale behind the 2D screen is to be able to market wholeheartedly to children, especially now that Pokémon X & Y are coming out, without having that worrying little asterisk that points to potential eye-damage in children under 7.
Tom: Yep, I agree with you all!
Andy: I don't see it as a climbdown at all. The 3D feature is being used well in upcoming first party titles. It's about giving consumers more choice, which can only be a good thing. It gets the price point lower than the 3DS could too, what with the tech required.
Tom: And unlike the Wii Mini it actually has every other feature.
Ron: I think it's just a way for media outlets to get hits. It's all finger-pointing. The 3D effect on the 3DS does enhance some games, but the truth is that it does very little for others. Calling it a failure is absurd. It was always an optional feature, so there is no failing to be done.
Stephen: Also, I'm not one to hold knowledge about technology price points, but how low could they cut the cost with the 3D hardware still on board?
Stephen: Good point, Ron. They've always made it very clear that the 3D elements can be turned down/off.
Andy: I don't think it could get below $125 with 3D involved
Gaz: It's not really a climbdown, more of a budget option. 3D isn't necessary to play these games, so if you're not using it, why have it? It's perfect for people on a budget.
Ken: To be fair though, I still think the announced 2DS price is too high for what it is.
Gaz: £100 isn't it?
Ken: Or thereabouts, yes.
Gaz: So same as a DS phat was, which seems reasonable to me, very reasonable.
Morgan: I agree, I think everything-but-the-3D is a pretty good deal for $130/£100
Ron: I would pay $100 for one, but $130 is a bit too much.
Andy: Yeah I think it's £109.99 at GAME.
Tom: It's still a very decent handheld system, so it's worth that price, I feel. There's still all the online, StreetPass, SpotPass, system updates etc.
Stephen: Here in America, knocking it down to $99.99 could be huge, though.
Andy: As a starting price, I think that's about right, this is still essentially a 3DS, just without the 3D.
Ron: I'm actually more attracted to the pouch that they keep showing with it than I am to the console.
Andy: That pouch is nice to be fair!
Morgan: Oh man, I agree Ron! Super dope pouch.
Ken: Well the 3DS is £134.99. From that, they're taking out the need for two physical screens, the 3D element, the hinges, the wiring that runs through those hinges, and the need to machine four pieces of housing to create the console.
For me, that means it should be more than £25 cheaper.
Not to mention the quicker assembly that they'll get on the production line due to the much simpler design.
Gaz: I don't begrudge Nintendo wanting to make a profit, £100 is cheap for what you get.
Tom: Ultimately I think the price is decent for the market. Nintendo, like every corporation, won't go cheaper just because it can.
Look at Sony with the PS3 slim 12GB price, ludicrous compared to the slim 500GB model.
Ken: I just think that they could have done £99.99 easily, and made it a REAL eye-catching value proposition this Christmas, is all.
Andy: I think it's positioned quite well against the growing range of kids' tablets that are cropping up in the market.
Tom: One fun bit of speculation to chew on. Is this design preparing us all for the next Nintendo portable generation going single screen?
Morgan: I have to admit I hadn't even thought of it! Nintendo portables just feel like dual-screened devices to me now; but in some ways it could be a nice change of pace to get back to one screen.
Nintendo portables just feel like dual-screened devices to me now; but in some ways it could be a nice change of pace to get back to one screen.
Marcel: Yeah, I have noticed that a surprisingly small amount of games have made use of the touch screen since the 3DS was introduced, so I wouldn't be surprised if the next gen just goes back to a single screen.
Gaz: I hope not. I've never liked how the 3DS took focus from the bottom screen, but the DS concept is so wonderful it would be a shame to see it die. Wii U showed absolutely that dual screens need to be in close proximity to work, so it's up to the DS line to continue to innovate in that area (the DS Layton games for example).
Stephen: I feel that a single tablet-style screen is probably the future... not unlike the Wii U controller.
Andy: I don't think so, some don't use it but many do. It's the same with 3D, the dev has the choice to implement it or not depending usually on cost, but if you take it away then nobody can use it and innovation suffers. Basically, the more options a dev has the more creative they can be.
Ron: I could see Nintendo going to a single touchscreen. It still wouldn't be a tablet, but it could cut into the tablet market.
Ken: I agree with Stephen. I think their next move will be a Wii U-compatible standalone device.
Morgan: Yeah actually, thinking about it a bit more, I'm definitely sold on the double-screen thing. When I switch to playing the Vita after the 3DS, for a while it feels really "flat" — part of it is that I play with the 3D on most of the time, but I also think it's because there's only one screen; it's almost more immersive, even though the screen's smaller.
Tom: I think that with the 3D screen, a lot of 3DS games relegated the touch screen to a menu display. I think its time may be coming to a natural end.
Gaz: I think what's so good about the DS concept is that on a small screen, it's impossible to fit everything on one screen — two screens is the answer. HDTVs are good enough to bypass the lack of real estate, but handhelds now need that extra room for non-essential stuff.
Andy: Good point Gaz.
Gaz: Even if it's not innovative, the second screen is valuable.
Morgan: Agreed. I've found myself saying "Indeed, it is good to have two screens" more than once lately!
Tom: Going single screen would cause a backward compatibility headache too, unless you use a Wii U or whatever to play 3DS games wirelessly on the TV via the handheld.
It depends how much third parties matter, because being the only dual screen portable perhaps puts undue pressure on devs to do that bit more work.
Ron: Don't get me wrong, I love the 3DS and its amount of screens, but I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Nintendo went back to one.
Stephen: If the screen is big enough, virtual dual screens might do the trick. (Not sure how that'd work out technology-wise!)
Gaz: But let's face it, the 3DS is the only portable on the market that is making up the sales numbers. PS Vita is nowhere comparatively, so it's not like people are saying "oh, we don't want to work on TWO screens now".
Tom: They portable devs (even big names) are mostly on phones and tablets. Not many major 3rd party retail titles are coming to 3DS. Nintendo's done an amazing job picking up the slack, but still. You could count notable mainstream upcoming 3rd party 3DS games on one hand, probably.
Gaz: But does anyone care about mobile games? We keep hearing that mobile will wipe out 3DS, but the opposite is true. 3DS is doing just fine.
Tom: That's not what I'm on about, I'm on about major projects from 3rd parties, and they're working on tight budgets, I imagine. Nintendo can't sustain portables on its own indefinitely.
It can for now, yes, so the 3DS is fine right now.
Stephen: They've done a pretty good job keeping afloat by themselves for a while now, though!
Gaz: What major project are we missing out on though? Angry Birds doesn't count.
Tom: Think back to the first half of 2012, when Mario Tennis was a "big" release, it took time for Nintendo line up its shots.
Andy: Good pun.
Gaz: Ace pun more like!
Morgan: I'm actually looking in my little 18-card Club Nintendo case right now, and I've just as many 3rd party titles as Nintendo games — mostly Atlus and SEGA, they've been working wonders for my 3DS lineup!
Gaz: Even in a scenario where Nintendo were the only publisher on 3DS, I'd be happy. They know their handheld games!
Morgan: Atlus in particular has been amazing at throwing JRPG goodness onto the 3DS this year, and I really hope that keeps up!
Tom: Yep, fair points all. In Europe the story's different with Atlus, Morgan!
Ron: One quick last comment about the 2Dees: It's not the most attractive console ever, but I'm guessing the build quality is Game Boy tough. That thing looks indestructible.
Tom: It looks a bit like a Fisher Price toy, but that's fine for its audience. That's really all I have to say about its appearance.
Morgan: I'm not a fan of the North American models, but the Euro white & red looks great to me!
Stephen: The fact that is has no joints freaks me out, but as mentioned previously, it looks impervious to all obstacles.
Gaz: It's an interesting design choice for sure, but one done out of cost necessity I would imagine. Those buttons halfway up the pad freak me out though, what are they doing there?
Andy: I actually want to get hold of one.
Ron: I'm actually really curious to see if it will be more or less comfortable in my GIANT MAN HANDS.
On the next page we chat about the Wii U price cut and assorted issues facing the system; some of us express optimism, however, so fear not!